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Murkowski Calls for VA Investigation, Transparency in Alaska

With Reports of Retaliation in Anchorage and Concerns Surrounding Wasilla Clinic, Senator Demands Answers

WASHINGTON, DC — Senator Lisa Murkowski today called for a thorough, swift and independent investigation of alleged scheduling irregularities within the Alaska VA system and a full response to the longstanding concerns surrounding the Wasilla Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC).  In a letter (attached) to the Department of Veterans Affairs Inspector General, Murkowski is pressing them to “expedite an inquiry into two matters related to the Alaska VA Healthcare System.”

After a New York Times report citing a former Anchorage VA physician alleging scheduling irregularities and a Mat-Su Frontiersman editorial suggesting a high level of frustration within the Wasilla community, Murkowski decided to press the issue to get a swifter resolution for Alaska’s veteran community.

The text of her letter reads:

Allegations of Dr. Jacqueline Brecht Regarding Waiting Lists at the Anchorage VA Outpatient Clinic – On Sunday June 15, 2014, the New York Times reported allegations by Dr. Jacqueline Brecht, a former urologist at the Anchorage outpatient clinic that she was retaliated against for questioning scheduling practices in the 2005-2008 timeframe. My office first became aware of Dr. Brecht’s allegations on June 6, 2014 following a telephone call to my staff from Dr. Brecht. During that telephone call, Dr. Brecht indicated that she had already reported her concerns to the VA Office of Inspector General. However, this is not the first time that we received anecdotal evidence of scheduling issues at the Anchorage VA during that specific timeframe. On May 14, 2014, I wrote to former Secretary Shinseki asking that the VA investigate scheduling discrepancies at the Anchorage VA dating back to the inception of the Iraq conflict. In light of the national controversy surrounding VA scheduling and allegations of personal misconduct by individuals at the Anchorage VA I have arrived at the conclusion that it is more appropriate that these issues be investigated by OIG.  Regardless of whether the scheduling discrepancies Dr. Brecht alleges are still occurring it is important that her allegations be thoroughly investigated and the outcome of that investigation be transparent to Alaska’s veterans.

Quality of Care at the Wasilla (Mat-Su) Community Based Outpatient Clinic – The Wasilla Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) serves a rising veteran population residing in Alaska’s fastest growing geographic region. Veterans have long complained about scheduling issues at the clinic which was assigned only one provider. That provider resigned this spring. There are currently no permanent providers assigned to the Wasilla CBOC. In response to veteran concerns I inserted language in the Senate Appropriations Committee report to accompany the Fiscal Year 2015 MILCON/VA appropriations bill requiring that the VA report to Congress on persistent problems at the Wasilla CBOC. The OIG last visited the Wasilla CBOC during the week of November 5, 2012 but conducted a limited review focused on women’s health, vaccinations, provider credentialing, and environmental safety and emergency management. It appears that OIG completely missed longstanding concerns about provider workload and its relationship to veteran access and quality of care in that review. I respectfully request that OIG return to Wasilla at its earliest convenience to review recent operations at the Wasilla CBOC. The urgency of such a review is reflected in an editorial which appeared in The Frontiersman, the newspaper of the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, on Saturday June 14, 2014, which is attached. [Link is featured in second paragraph of release.]

Senator Murkowski has been focused on the ongoing issues at the Wasilla CBOC.  Most recently, she successfully inserted a provision in the FY2015 VA/Military Construction funding bill calling for a review of the facility’s staffing problems.  Murkowski is concerned that a 2012 IG investigation of the Wasilla facility focused on the wrong issues.  According to Murkowski’s letter, the “OIG completely missed longstanding concerns about provider workload and its relationship to veteran access and quality of care in that review.”

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